The Offender with Mental Retardation

DOI10.1177/003288558606600103
Date01 April 1986
Published date01 April 1986
Subject MatterArticles
3
The
Offender
with
Mental
Retardation
Miles
Santamour*
*The
author
has
been
a
specialist
in
the
field
of
mental
retardation
in
criminal
and
juvenile
justice
for
the
past
20
years.
His
books
in-
clude
The
Retarded
Offender
(with
P.
Watson),
New
York,
Praeger,
1982,
and
The
Mentally
Reta
rded
Offender
and
Corrections
(with
B.
West),
Washington,
D.
C.,
Law
Enforcement
Assistance
Administra-
tion,
1977.
Formerly
with
the
President’s
Committee
on
Mental
Retar-
dation,
he
is
now
a
consultant
in
mental
health
and
mental
retarda-
tion.
This
paper
will
be
part
of
a
soon-to-be
revised
edition
of
Changing
Patterns
in
Residential
Services,
published
by
the
President’s
Com-
mittee
on
Mental
Retardation.
A
new
ripple
of
concern
is
shaking
to
consciousness
the
injus-
tices
dealt
to
the
offender
who
is
mentally
retarded,
and
attention
is
once
again
beginning
to
focus
on
this
area
of
need.
In
part,
this
renewed
concern
is
the
result
of
the
recognition
given
to
these
offenders
by
the
President’s
Committee
on
Mental
Retardation,
the
National
Institute
of
Corrections,
the
American
Correctional
Association,
and
the
Association
for
Retarded
Citizens
U.S.A.
Litigation
such
as
the
Riciz
v.
Estelle
(1980)
case
and
legis-
lation
in
California
and
Tennessee,
which
protects
offenders
with
mental
retardation,
have
also
focused
attention
on
this
long-neglect-
ed
area
of
need.
The
American
Bar
Association
(1983)
has
recently
developed
standards
for
criminal
justice
which
cite
specific
stand-
ards
for
assisting
defendants
and
convicted
offenders
who
are
mentally
retarded.
Still
more
recently,
Madeleine
Will,
assistant
secretary
of
the
U.S.
Department
of
Education,
Special
Education
and
Rehabilitation
Services,
has taken
steps
to
safeguard
the
educational
rights
of
handicapped
inmates.
In
the
fall
of
1985,
she
held
a
conference
of
advisors
to
assist
her
in
determining
what
steps
to
take
in
implementing
regulations
relating
to
the
educa-
tional
rights
of
handicapped
inmates
in
criminal
and
juvenile
justice
institutions.
The
California
Board
of
Correction’s
Revision
Committee
has
also
accomplished
an
historic
first
in
the
annals
of
criminal
justice.
California
is
the
first
state
in
the
nation
to
set
standards
requiring
local
and
county
detention
facilities
to
identify
inmates
who
are
mentally
retarded
and
to
provide
them
with
special
handling.
The
standards
have
just
become
effective
this
year.
Also
in
1986,
the
National
Institute
of
Corrections
is
providing
more
than
a
half
million
dollars
for
tax
projects
which
will
improve
conditions
nationwide
for
these
same
inmates.
4
Numerous
local
and
state
forums and
three
national
meetings
on
the
subject,
together
with
countless
presentations
at
gatherings
attended
by
both
criminal
justice
and
mental
retardation
profes-
sionals,
have
added
support
in
bringing
the
needs
of
the
mentally
retarded
offender
to
the
attention
of
both
fields.
Several
programs
of
exemplary
status
which
serve
offenders
with
mental
retardation
are
in
operation
throughout
the
country.
The
promotion
of
these
programs
by
a
variety
of
groups,
by
publications
in
professional
journals,
and
by
the
news
media
have
also
fostered
the
cause.
Despite
all
this
activity,
the
majority
of
the
people
with
mental
retardation
who
encounter
the
criminal
or
juvenile
justice
system
still
suffer
gross
injustices
which
far
exceed
the
injustices
suffered
by
any
other
class
of
offenders.
People
with
mental
retardation
are
more
likely
to
be
arrested,
to
be
convicted,
to
be sentenced
to
prison,
and
to
be
victimized
in
prison.
They
receive
probation
and
parole
far
less
readily
and
far
less
often
than
their
counterparts
in
either
of
the
justice
systems.
Who
are
these
offenders,
what
injustices
do
they
suffer,
and
what
can
be
done
about
it?
These
are
questions
professionals
are
just
recently
beginning
to
ask.
Although
there
is
some
confusion
relative
to
their
numbers
and
some
disagreement
as
to
where
they
should
be
treated,
most
professionals
agree
that
injustices
do
occur,
and
they
agree
on
what
should
be
done
about
it.
,
A
Histoi-y
of the
Problem
The
relationship
between
mental
retardation
and
criminal
behavior
has
historically
been
a
subject
of
great
debate,
beginning
with
efforts
by
early
researchers
to
demonstrate
that
retardation
predisposes
a
person
to
commit
criminal
acts.
Between
1890
and
1920,
theorists
tried
to
link
retardation
with
criminality,
poverty,
insanity,
and
general
moral
and
physical
degeneration.
Their
explanations
of
these
various
phenomena
looked
no
further
than
the
individual
as
the
source
of
the
problem;
they
often
blamed
the
victim
rather
than
larger
societal factors.
During
this
period,
Goddard
(1916)
went
so
far
as
to
assert
that
the
number
of
crim-
inals
falling
into
the
mentally
retarded
range
was
close
to
100
percent.
During
the
years
1921
to
1960,
the
debate
shifted
to
include
the
consideration
of
social
factors
operating
within
the
environ-
ment.
Theorists
questioned
whether
retardation
predisposed
any-
one
to
commit
criminal
acts.
The
focus
of
blame
shifted
from
the
individual
to
the
family
unit,
and
such
factors
as
the
impact
of
poverty,
poor
education,
and
suspect
or
nonexistent
health
care
were
stressed
(Jenkins,
1935:291-307).

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